The Political Front
Peggy Noonan had it right today when she pleaded with Democrats to nominate someone sane. Why?... because anyone who gets the nomination could get elected. Likely? ... no, in my opinion. I think Bush will win for a number of reasons. First, it is very hard to beat an incumbent. It happens, but usually because of remarkable events, like double-digit inflation and interest rates, or a third party candidacy, or post-war dull-drums. But even then it is hard. Also, the country is far more conservative than it used to be, and if you picture that election map, you tend to see a sea of red (if that is the Republican color this year) everywhere other than some blue on the coasts. For a very interesting site on this, check out the election projection project. And more specifically, it is hard to imagine any of the candidates doing very well against Bush. There will undoubtedly be plenty of polls that show a Kerry or an Edwards (if either of these guys are not the nominee, I will be surprised) with a big lead at somepoint, but that is not unusual (remember Dole leading by 15% over Clinton?...Dole does!). Bush is, unlike his father, a very good politician and will have ridiculous amounts of money to spend. Any of these Democratic challengers will find it hard to wage a positive campaign and appear as other than nit-picking on social issues that Bush has co-opted. On foreign policy, they will be very exposed (particularly the senators, who were privy to intelligence reports) to opportunism and, so long as Bush stays on message, will be hard pressed to appear as credible. So I think the challenger will face an uphill battle.
Yet, it is not surmountable. Bush' SOTU speech was overall a dissappointment (I actually liked a lot of it, but there was a flatness to it and it did not resonate with people). Also, he is not making the right noises on Iraq and WMD. He needs to be like a hammer, constantly reminding people why we went to war and getting his own view of the WMD debate out there. I really don't understand why he isn't, but we've seen it before (it was the same leading up to the war... some speeches, but not enough). And from a savvy group led by Rove, I am amazed. (BTW, I will leave it for another post, but as far as I'm concerned, the "why we went to war" and "WMD" rationales are easy arguments for Bush to make and people will respond to them). And, Bush's fiscal recklessness is not inspiring to his base and will get NO credit with the opposition (again, why Bush is not talking every day about his social policies to appeal to crossovers and triangulate against the Left, much as the way Clinton did against the Right, is a mystery to me). Finally, those who are against Bush HATE HIM and are very motivated. As Noonan said,
"There may be something to the idea that Democrats in general want to get rid of George W. Bush more than Republicans in general want to keep him."
I agree. So we shall see. But read Noonan. She correctly says that we need someone to lead the war on terror and that person cannot be a bit of a nut. In particular, she says that it is important to get rid of Clark (Dean, she says, won't win against Bush anyway, and I think she is right). She commented on this particular exchange:
More telling is Gen. Clark on abortion. A pro-lifer wouldn't have the smallest of chances in the Democratic Party, but a certain Clintonian politesse is expected when the question is raised. "Abortion is always a tragedy but denying a woman her reproductive rights under the Constitution would also be a tragedy"--that kind of thing. This is what Gen. Clark said when he met with the Manchester Union-Leader and was questioned by the newspaper's Joseph McQuaid:
Clark: I don't think you should get the law involved in abortion--
McQuaid: At all?
McQuaid: Late-term abortion? No limits?
McQuaid: Anything up to delivery?
Clark: Nope, nope.
McQuaid: Anything up to the head coming out of the womb?
Clark: I say that it's up to the woman and her doctor, her conscience. . . . You don't put the law in there.
Gen. Clark was then asked, "What about when she's grown up and at the prom, can you kill her then?" He said, "Absolutely. Chase her across the dance floor. This is a personal decision for the mother." Oh--sorry--I made that last part up. He did not advocate killing children 18 years after they're born. Though one wonders why not. Maybe he does have nuance. His campaign tried to spin it into a plus. He forgot to speak "artfully," "precisely." But he was nothing if not precise. He forgot to speak sanely."(emphasis mine)
I am still laughing!